House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.


Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada National Parks ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from April 29 consideration of the motion.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-29. I want to begin by saying we would like to see the bill returned to committee for further study.

The bill deals with accused who are basically unfit for trial, although it took a lot of reading to figure that out. I am not a lawyer and I do not think Parliament should be writing legislation that only lawyers can decipher. My colleague, the justice critic for the NDP, has put forward a bill asking for plain language policies in the House and in the drafting of our legislation.

Just very briefly, this is one of the most complex pieces of legislation before the House, mostly because of the intricate obtuse language in which it is written. The justice committee will need some time to review the bill to ensure that the offenders described in it do not lose the rights other offenders enjoy simply because they suffer from mental illness. It is a major concern because these are often the offenders who do not have adequate access to justice. I will borrow some information from my colleague from Regina—Qu'Appelle who has studied this problem in detail. Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that:

Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination....

Imagine that the rights conferred by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms were only available if they were affordable. Imagine if our rights to life, liberty and security were available only if we were sufficiently wealthy to secure them for ourselves. What if the right to have a court proceeding translated into a language that we understand were violated because the government stance is that only those who can afford to hire their own translators can enjoy these rights? What if our right to be fairly represented by counsel amounted to nothing more than our ability or inability to hire the best lawyer we could afford?

Naturally these requirements sound absurd, and so they should. Each of these situations is a violation in and of itself that no court of law should be allowed to tolerate. Luckily for Canadians the charter does not guarantee the rights and freedoms set out subject only to how much we could afford, at least not in theory. That is because the charter forms part of the Constitution, making it inviolable and uninfringeable. Truly it is the supreme law of Canada. Accordingly to this, then, none of the above mentioned absurdities could be allowed to arise or persist.

As with many things, that which is true in theory often fails to translate into truth in practice. In practice, the absurdities mentioned above represent realities for many Canadians who come into contact with the justice system. The reality is that governments at both the provincial and federal levels are currently subjecting our rights to their affordability.

This has been allowed to happen because disparities across the provinces, stemming directly from funding problems, are compromising our right to equal protection and benefit under the law. It is about time we actually practise what we codify as law. Pretty words will get chucked at the Bar and justice will too if we do not take action to restore accessible and affordable legal services across the provinces and territories.

Justice should not and cannot continue to be limited only to the rich and well off. If our legal system does not reflect that point, we run the risk of losing the validity of one of the most important pillars of a democratic society. The Constitution does not simply say that all Canadians are equal under the law. It also says that Canadians have the right to equal protection and equal benefit under the law.

Can it be said that a person who has a public defender appointed to them enjoys the same protection and benefit of the law as the defender who assembles a team of high profile lawyers? I would say not. It cannot be said that a person in British Columbia who is denied legal aid with their child custody and support claim receives the same protection and benefit of the law as the person in Manitoba, where those services are offered by legal aid. Nor can one pretend that the law offers equal protection and benefits to everyone when some people are forced to sacrifice more than others in order to have equal access to the courts. This, however, is a reality in Canada for far too many Canadians.

Therefore, this is what we believe needs to be done. First, we need to standardize legal aid coverage across the provinces. Differences between the provinces means differences between Canadians. Disparities in services mean that the likelihood of obtaining justice is dependent more on the administration of the law rather than the law itself.

If a service is offered in any of the provinces or territories, it should be available and in every other province and territory. This is not to say that legal aid has to cover every matter, but it does rightly require that a legal service provided for Canadians in one region be provided in every region, as provided for under the charter.

We believe also that we need to standardize legal aid eligibility across the provinces. To illustrate the disparities or arguably the injustices in legal aid, by way of example, assume that a Canadian earns $20,000 a year. If that Canadian lived in British Columbia or Manitoba where the financial eligibility criteria is capped at $23,000 and $27,000 respectively, they would be eligible for free legal services. If, however, the same Canadian lived in either Ontario or Quebec where the cap is $15,000 and $17,500 respectively, they would be denied these essential and otherwise unaffordable services. Therefore, access to the legal system should not be denied to Canadians based on their incomes.

We also need to revise the financial evaluation process so that it recognizes that families have priorities other than just paying to obtain justice, such as keeping their families fed and housed. Current guidelines for financial evaluation set aside a modest exemption for personal assets. After that, however, governments expect legal costs to be paid out of personal assets, such as one's bank account, car, RRSP or home.

Can it still be considered justice if a family is successful in their legal battle but has done so by losing their home, their vehicle or their retirement savings? Obviously not. That is why guidelines need to be more equitable and sensitive to an applicant's responsibility to feed, clothe and shelter their families.

For most Canadians, the barriers to obtaining justice is the sheer cost of legal services provided by lawyers. Rather than have the public engage the legal profession in an adversarial debate over how much lawyers should earn or what their services are worth, it should be recognized that the government and the legal profession are in the position to enter into a mutually beneficial relationship with the goal of providing the public with valuable services.

It is time to provide tuition credits as well for law school students. One way to provide more affordable, accessible counsel would be to increase the numbers of lawyers available. To this end, the government must recognize the increasing cost of law school and should explore the possibility of providing tuition credits or refunds to law school students who enter practice after graduation.

It is also time to provide tax incentives for pro bono work. In the interests of providing a greater number of lawyers to those who cannot afford it, the government should provide lawyers with greater incentives to represent those with lower incomes on a pro bono basis. This could be achieved by something as simple as a tax incentive or rebate for those lawyers who engage clients in the type of work.

Unless I have misread the charter, I thought the rights and freedoms of Canadians went far beyond provincial jurisdiction and I did not think we had to shell out our savings simply to look after inequitable legal costs in various provinces and not in others.

In closing, the NDP supports having this bill sent to committee for further study and further improvement, and we look forward to being involved in that process.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak in support of Bill C-29, which is an act to amend the Criminal Code. It deals with the issue of mental disorder.

The current motion seeks to refer the bill to committee for review now. I am confident that all members should be able to support this motion.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice indicated on April 28, Bill C-29 is to a great extent the product of a study conducted by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, as it was then known. That committee recommended improvements to the criminal law governing persons found unfit to stand trial, or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

The committee review will likely focus on how Bill C-29 responds to the issues that were raised before that standing committee by the many witnesses that it heard. Bill C-29 responds to those issues and includes additional amendments to ensure an effective, efficient and fair regime. There are a few aspects of Bill C-29 that I would draw to the attention of hon. members.

First, in dealing with persons found unfit to stand trial, under the current law a person found unfit to stand trial cannot be absolutely discharged. The law governing mental disorder requires an individual assessment of an accused to ensure that both the needs of the accused for treatment and rehabilitation and the need of the public for public safety are taken into account. An unfit accused person cannot be absolutely discharged because there has been no opportunity for the Crown to establish that they have committed an offence. However, the unfit accused who does not pose a risk can be placed on a conditional disposition with minimal restrictions, if appropriate.

Many persons found unfit will become fit through treatment and once fit, will proceed to trial. Some others will not become fit for years, or perhaps they will never become fit, and cannot be tried. Our law already includes many safeguards for this group.

Bill C-29 will provide an additional safeguard to ensure that persons found unfit to stand trial who are likely to remain unfit and who do not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public can have their situation reviewed by the court. The court, and only the court, will have the authority to order a judicial stay of the proceedings for the unfit accused.

I want to assure hon. members who have voiced their concerns about public safety that the government shares their concerns about public safety. Bill C-29 has been very carefully drafted to protect public safety. A judicial stay of proceedings for an unfit accused will not be an option where the accused poses a threat to public safety.

The amendments include new provisions to ensure that an unfit accused who is not likely to ever become fit to stand trial, for example, a person who has an organic brain injury, and who does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public may be brought to the court's attention.

A review board will be able to make a recommendation to the court to hold an inquiry into the status of the unfit accused where, in their opinion, and based on an assessment, the accused is not likely to ever be fit to stand trial and does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public.

The court may hold an inquiry, hear from all parties, particularly the Crown, and determine whether a judicial stay of proceedings should be ordered in the interests of the proper administration of justice. The court will consider several factors in deciding whether to order a stay, including whether the Crown has had an opportunity to make its prima facie case against the accused, as it is required to do every two years. This is the current requirement in our law, that the Crown does establish that sufficient evidence can be brought forward to put the accused on trial.

The proposed amendments will address the situation of the permanently unfit accused who poses no risk and will permit the court to order a stay of proceedings. However, an unfit accused who poses a risk to safety cannot--I repeat cannot--be granted such a stay. Our law must ensure that the rights of the accused and the rights of the public to safety are balanced. The proposed amendments will do so.

Bill C-29 sets out a very detailed scheme to permit a judicial stay for an unfit accused. First, the review board, after holding one or more annual review hearings for an unfit accused, must come to the opinion that the unfit accused is not likely to become fit and that the unfit accused does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public. The review board can order that the accused person's mental condition be assessed by a psychiatrist to assist the board in making this recommendation.

The review board then may make a recommendation to the court to hold a hearing to determine whether a judicial stay of proceedings is in the interest of the proper administration of justice. Where the court agrees to hold such a hearing, the hearing will provide opportunities to all parties to make their submissions. The Crown, who represents the public interest, could make submissions on the nature of the case against the accused, public safety and the mental condition of the accused. The accused and the treating hospital or physician could also make submissions.

I would also highlight that where the court agrees to hold a hearing, the court must order yet another assessment of the mental condition of the accused. This requirement will ensure the court has the most up to date information about the accused when determining, first, that the accused is not likely to become fit to stand trial, and second, that the accused does not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public.

Ultimately, the court must decide whether the judicial stay of proceedings is necessary in the interest of the proper administration of justice. Bill C-29 sets out several factors for the court to consider in this process, including the nature and the seriousness of the offence committed. This new provision will address the concern that some people could be caught up in the criminal justice system because they are mentally ill, although they pose no threat to public safety.

Our law cannot permit the potential indefinite detention of persons who have not been tried and convicted. Bill C-29 provides a carefully crafted approach to prevent this indefinite detention, but only for those who do not pose a significant threat to the safety of the public.

I have one final point regarding the new provision. Where the court orders a judicial stay of proceedings for an unfit accused, the Crown may appeal the order. However, there is no right of appeal for the accused where the court does not order a judicial stay. This is because this is a discretionary provision. It is not a process that the accused can initiate. The review board must make a recommendation to the court and the court will then consider the issue.

In conclusion, I hope that my comments have addressed any concerns hon. members may have. I have highlighted why this new provision is necessary. Bill C-29 includes many reforms, all designed to address the balance between protecting the rights of the accused persons who are mentally ill with the rights of the public to public safety. Clearly, we have struggled with this issue over time. There is no question that this has challenged us, the judiciary and our social services within this country to properly deal with issues of this nature. I know that many hon. members have struggled with this, both here in the House and also at committee, to try to find ways and means to meet the needs of those who are mentally ill and yet face the justice system.

Clearly, from the perspective of those who are caught in what is sometimes described as a revolving door problem, there has to be a way to assess their ability to recover from their illness, to go forward and to face the charges that have been brought to bear within the court system.

As far as I am concerned, the bill moves forward the process of being able to deal with those who are mentally ill and find themselves before our criminal courts. I hope that hon. members will find that, in going forward to the committee, the bill will receive proper and due consideration and will come forward to the House for passage so that we may solve this problem.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak in support of Bill C-29 and to encourage all members of the House to support these reforms following the proposed review by the appropriate parliamentary committee. The need for these reforms are known to the hon. members who have participated in the review by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code.

The criminal law governing persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder and those found unfit to stand trial is not well known and in fact, is often misunderstood. Some may think that a person who commits an offence and is found not criminally responsible gets away with the crime. Some may think that there are in fact no consequences. However the law governing persons found unfit and not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder does provide for consequences. Usually those include treatment and also supervision.

The Criminal Code contains a whole section, part XX.1, dedicated to mental disorder. This part includes the law and procedure governing persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder and now are found unfit for trial. Part XX.1 is complex and in parts is very technical. However this part of the Criminal Code provides a regime that fairly and effectively provides for the supervision and treatment of a mentally disordered accused and for the protection of public safety.

For victims of crime, the criminal law and the criminal justice system is confusing, complex and often quite unwelcoming. Where the accused is found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, victims of crime face additional impediments to achieving a resolution of the offence. Victims of crime desire and deserve information about the justice system and about the case in which they are personally involved.

Law reforms coupled with changes in policies and expansion of services have given victims a greater role in criminal proceedings. For example, amendments to the Criminal Code back in 1988 introduced the notion of a victim impact statement as a mechanism for victims of crime to describe the harm and loss suffered because of the crime. Publication bans to protect the identity of sexual assault victims were also enacted in 1988. Subsequent amendments to the Criminal Code over the last 15 years have enhanced the role of victims of crime while respecting the rights of accused persons.

In response to the 1998 report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, “Victims' Rights--A Voice, Not a Veto”, the government enacted a package of reforms to the Criminal Code in 1999 to, among other things, ensure that victims were made aware of the opportunity to submit a victim impact statement; ensure that the safety of the victim was considered in judicial interim release decisions; fix the amount and clarify the automatic imposition of a victim surcharge; and allow judges a discretion to order a publication ban on the identity of any victim or witness where necessary for the proper administration of justice.

The 1999 amendments also provided for a victim impact statement to be prepared and submitted to the court or review board at a disposition hearing for an accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. The court or review board is required to consider the statement in determining the appropriate disposition or conditions of a disposition “to the extent the statement is relevant to its consideration as a criteria set out in section 672.54”.

The victim impact statement is provided for in subsection 672.5(14) which states:

A victim of the offence may prepare and file with the court or review board a written statement describing the harm done to, or loss suffered by, the victim arising from the commission of the offence.

When an accused person is found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, the review board will decide how the accused is to be supervised. Victims of crime have been overlooked in many cases and receive little information about what will happen next, or whether they will have any role or access to any information.

The amendments included in Bill C-29 will enhance the role of victims of crime where the accused has been found not criminally responsible, but the new provisions for victims fully respect the differences between the laws that govern persons who are criminally responsible and convicted and those who are not criminally responsible.

The accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder is not held accountable for his or her conduct. The appropriate disposition must take into account several factors, including the need to protect the public, the mental condition of the accused, and the reintegration of the accused into society.

The impact of the crime on the victim may be relevant to only some of the criteria. Where the court or review board is considering a conditional discharge, the victim's statement may be relevant to the crafting of particular conditions: for example, that the accused not contact the victim or that the accused not go certain places.

It should be noted again that the administration of justice is a matter of provincial responsibility. The provision of victims services as part of the administration of justice is also a matter of provincial responsibility. The provision of victim impact statement forms, assistance in preparing the statements, and the collection and submission of the statements to the Crown or the court are generally handled by the provinces' victims services programs, whether police based, court based or community based.

The standing committee recommended that courts or review boards conducting a review notify the victim where the victim has indicated interest in receiving such notification. It should be noted that after the initial disposition a review hearing would be held at least every 12 months. Review board administration varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and the capacity to advise victims as to the dates of review board hearings, locations, adjournments and outcomes will necessarily vary.

While similar provisions have been crafted to require a court conducting a disposition hearing pursuant to section 672.45, or a review board conducting a disposition hearing pursuant to section 672.47, to inquire of the Crown or the victim whether the victim has been advised of the opportunity to prepare a statement, other non-legislative initiatives are required to inform victims of crime about the provisions of the code which apply to them and about the relevant dates of proceedings, the terms of a disposition and other essential information.

In order to enhance the role of victims of crime, Bill C-29 includes the following provisions.

First, victims will be permitted to orally present their victim impact statement at the review board hearing. The statement would be prepared in advance and the victim could read it aloud or, in some cases, present it in another manner.

Second, following delivery of the verdict of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, the court or the review board chairperson must inquire whether the victim has been made aware that he or she indeed can submit a victim impact statement.

Third, the initial disposition hearing can be adjourned to permit the victim to prepare a victim impact statement if he or she so desires.

Finally, review boards will have new powers to impose a publication ban on the identity of victims and witnesses where such production is necessary for the proper administration of justice.

To the greatest extent possible, Bill C-29 includes provisions for victims which parallel Criminal Code provisions that apply where the accused is convicted and sentenced. The government places a high priority on addressing the concerns of victims of crime. The Bill C-29 amendments are a contribution of the evolution in our justice system that recognizes the role of the victims of crime.

I would also highlight the exceptional efforts of victims services agencies and both police based and court based services that are primarily provincial responsibilities. The Criminal Code cannot legislate all that is needed by victims. Provincial legislation governs services, and provinces are responsible for the administration of justice.

The standing committee, in its consideration of the mental disorder law, highlighted that victims of crime should receive notice of hearing dates, notices of disposition and information about the terms and conditions. There is no doubt that victims need all this information and even more.

Bill C-29 is a positive step for victims and that, I hope, will encourage our provincial counterparts to complement this legislation to address these information requirements.

In conclusion, I would encourage all hon. members to support Bill C-29. These amendments in fact provide greater protection for mentally disordered accused persons and, most important, a greater role for victims of crime in our society.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today and speak in support of Bill C-29, an act to amend the Criminal Code with regard to mental disorder. This bill seeks to make a range of improvements to the law governing those found unfit to stand trial and those found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

I will be focusing my remarks on the provisions of Bill C-29 that seek to repeal provisions of the Criminal Code that in fact were never proclaimed in force.

Hon. members may be curious why it is even worth mentioning, since the repeal of unproclaimed provisions merely clarifies the status quo. It is true that the repeal of the unproclaimed provisions will not change the applicable law. However, these provisions are worth noting because the repeal reflects the government's belief that these provisions are not needed and will not be needed in the future. The repeal will bring certainty and clarity to those who may hold out hope for these old provisions, which we now agree do not reflect the goals of the regime governing mentally disordered accused.

Bill C-29 will repeal three provisions of the 1991 amending act that were never proclaimed. They are: capping, the dangerous mentally disordered accused, and the hospital order provisions.

Capping provisions were originally designed to ensure that the supervision of those found not criminally responsible would not be longer than the maximum sentence available through a criminal conviction. The maximum period or “caps” would depend on the offence committed and would range from life to two years or less.

Capping provisions were included as part of the 1992 reforms. The initial postponement in proclamation was necessary to permit a review of all persons held under a Lieutenant-Governor's warrant to determine whether they should be subject to an increased cap. The delay was also intended to allow the provinces to make necessary amendments to their mental health legislation to ensure that those discharged after a cap would be subject to such legislation where necessary. However, provincial mental health law is not designed to supervise potentially dangerous persons and amendments were not pursued.

The standing committee has called for the repeal of the capping provisions. The current regime, in the absence of capping, provides the appropriate balance between the accused's rights and the public's right to safety.

Several accused persons have appealed their dispositions, arguing that if they had been convicted they would have served a short sentence. The Supreme Court of Canada has clearly established that sentences for convicted offenders should not be compared with dispositions imposed where an accused is found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

Accused persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder are not punished. Rather, they are assessed, treated and supervised until they can be absolutely discharged. The absolute discharge may be appropriate soon after the verdict or years later, depending on the accused's mental condition and the risk to public safety. The nature of the offence may have no bearing on a disposition for those not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. Capping should therefore be repealed once and for all.

The dangerous mentally disordered accused provisions were linked to the capping concept. They too should be and will be repealed. The DMDA provisions would have enabled the prosecutor to apply to the court after a finding of not criminally responsible, but before any disposition is made, to make a finding that the accused is a dangerous mentally disordered accused. The criteria and procedure parallel the dangerous offender provisions that apply to sane convicted offenders. The court could have then increased a 10 year cap to a maximum of life, but only for serious personal injury offences, including various sexual and violent offences. However, the provisions were very narrow in application and would have permitted an extended cap for only some offences.

The DMDA provisions and capping provisions are interdependent and are therefore being repealed together. The repeal of capping and the related DMDA provisions, coupled with the amendments to better protect the rights of criminally unfit accused, will continue to reflect the goals of our criminal law, including that of protecting the public.

The hospital order provisions would have applied to convicted offenders, not those found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. These provisions are also proposed for repeal. Hospital orders were intended to provide a mechanism for short term treatment of a convicted offender who at the time of sentencing was in an acute phase of a mental disorder and in urgent need of treatment to prevent further mental deterioration. An offender meeting this criterion would be sent to a psychiatric facility for a period of up to 60 days rather than being jailed.

The provisions are being repealed because there is a general view among stakeholders that the current system can accomplish the intended purpose of hospital orders without a statutory provision. In addition, the code provisions were too narrow in their application to address the nature and range of mental disorder present in the convicted offender population. Proclamation of the hospital order provisions would not address the larger problem.

The repeal of these provisions reflects the government's commitment to fair and effective laws that are clear and up to date. I encourage all members to support Bill C-29.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege for me to rise in the House on the subject of the Criminal Code reforms introduced by the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General of Canada on March 29, 2004.

Specifically, these reforms to the Criminal Code affect people who are not criminally responsible or who have been deemed unfit to stand trial on account of mental disorder.

These provisions are quite important. Anyone who has looked at the Criminal Code provisions that apply to people who are not criminally responsible or who have been deemed unfit to stand trial on account of mental disorder, would see that some of those provisions are really out of date. Some of those provisions have never in fact been enacted. I also think there were some court judgments on some of those provisions that have provided clarity, and the government's amendments deal with that.

I would like to repeat a quote from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada when he tabled these amendments. He said:

We are committed to ensuring the law protects the rights of mentally disordered persons, while at the same time protecting public safety. For this purpose, I am proposing changes that will not only modernize the law but make it more fair and efficient, while preserving the overall framework that governs those found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder

These were the words of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

For those who are not familiar with criminal law or with the Criminal Code, there are provisions that state that one may be found not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder. When that happens it means that the accused is neither found guilty nor acquitted, and in fact is not even sentenced. Instead, a court or review board determines the appropriate disposition. It could be an absolute discharge, a discharge with conditions or an order that the individual be detained in hospital based on a series of criteria set out in the Criminal Code.

These amendments cover a broad base of issues dealing with those who have been found not criminally responsible following an actual trial or those who have been declared unfit to stand trial following evidence that has been brought before the judge at hand.

What are some of the amendments that the Minister of Justice has brought forward? On the one hand there are amendments that expand the powers of the provincial and territorial review boards. Why? They need to enhance their ability to fulfill their mandate. What is their mandate? These review boards of the provinces and territories have a legislated mandate which requires them to make decisions about detentions, the supervision or the release of someone who was found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible but who has been ordered to be detained for a period of time.

At various periods those review boards have to sit in judgment of individuals who have been ordered to be detained under these circumstances to determine whether they can be released and, if they can be released, under what conditions; whether they are a threat to society and, if they are, they evaluate the level of that risk. The amendments that the Minister of Justice has brought forward would enhance the ability of the review boards to make those decisions.

My colleague just finished speaking to another series of amendments. She made an entire speech on the issue of victim impact statements and did it very well. What she basically said, through everything she provided the House, was that it would allow for victim impact statements to be read by the victim at a review board hearing and would allow the review boards similar powers to that of the courts to protect the identity of the victims. As she herself stated, this is a major advance.

Up until now the Criminal Code provisions that allowed for victim impact statements did not deal with review boards that had to determine what to do with someone who had been found not criminally responsible but needed to be detained or someone who had been found unfit to stand trial because of his or her mental condition. Because the victims were not able to give victim impact statements in those cases, the review boards were not able to take into account the impact that the crime had on the victim. That is important.

These amendments would also permit the court to hold an inquiry and order a judicial stay of proceedings for an unfit accused who is not likely to ever become fit to stand trial and who poses no threat to public safety. This is important because to date the Criminal Code provisions did not allow for any mechanism. Even when we knew that the individual who was found unfit to stand trial posed no threat to public safety, there was no way for the courts to stay the proceedings or order an inquiry. Those individuals had to go through the trial. They would no longer have to do that.

Another amendment is to streamline transfer provisions. We already have provisions for individuals who have been found guilty of a crime and who have been sentenced to serve part or all of their sentence in detention, either in a provincial facility or in a federal facility, depending on whether they have been sentenced to two years less a day or to two years and more, to be transferred from one province to another or from a territory to a province or vice versa. In some cases they may wish to be transferred because there are certain educational possibilities that are available in another province's detention centres or penitentiaries that we do not have in the province where they are detained. In other cases it may be because they would be closer to friends and family.

If a person committed a crime, say in Quebec, but the person was actually from Alberta, which is where his family, his network is, if he were transferred to his own province he could receive the support of his family and friends which may contribute to his rehabilitation. Under the Criminal Code provisions as they now stand, for those who have been found not criminally responsible following a trial or for those who have been found unfit to stand trial, given their mental disorders that have been proven, the transfer provisions were quite wieldy and not very effective or efficient.

One of the amendments the Minister of Justice has made to the legislation would actually streamline those transfer provisions. It would allow a person found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder to be relocated from one province to another when it is in the best interests of rehabilitation.

I wish to underline that these reforms that the Minister of Justice and Attorney General has brought before the House are outlined in the Government of Canada's November 2002 response to the report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights review of the mental disorder provisions of the Criminal Code. The proposed amendments also reflect current case law, as I mentioned at the beginning of my comments.

I would ask that all members of the House support these amendments. Let us get them adopted and through the House so they can actually be proclaimed and come into effect.

Genie AwardsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Christian Jobin Liberal Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday evening, the Genie Awards celebrated Canadian films. I would like to congratulate our Canadian filmmakers, to whom we owe our nation's film industry.

This year's Genie Awards have recognized the fantastic year French-Canadian film had in 2003: Les Invasions barbares took six Genies, including best motion picture, best original screenplay, and achievement in direction. La grande séduction , with 11 nominations, and Séraphin: un homme et son péché , winner of the Golden Reel for best box office results, were celebrated as well.

I also want to mention the success of the film, The Saddest Music in the World , which received three Genie awards.

The achievements of Canadian cinema demonstrate the great talent, energy and vitality of our motion picture industry. This was an exceptional year for Canadian motion pictures, which are reaching growing audiences across Canada.

The Government of Canada is very proud to support our film industry. With pride, I invite all Canadians to celebrate these achievements. Let us join together to send them our most sincere congratulations.

Fishing IndustryStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, men and women who enjoy fishing are on the Liberal hit list. Decades of Liberal red tape has been killing hunting and shooting sports in Canada. Now the Liberals have picked the fishing industry as their next target.

A few weeks ago the environment minister tried to quietly announce his proposal to ban all lead sinkers and brass fishing lures. He plans to put his plan into place in October, after the election. There are about eight million men and women in Canada who enjoy fishing and the Liberal government is going after them just like it went after firearms owners.

The Liberals have driven hundreds of thousands of responsible firearms owners out of their sports and have cost the Canadian economy more than 10,000 businesses and the thousands of jobs that go with them.

Now they have a plan to do the same thing to the fishing industry by banning fishing tackle. All this is being done without sufficient scientific evidence that there is even a problem. It is about time we gave Liberals the hook.

University of Prince Edward IslandStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Shawn Murphy Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, this Saturday, May 8, the University of Prince Edward Island will confer honourary degrees upon three outstanding members of Canada's Acadian community.

As members know, 2004 marks the 400th anniversary of the first Acadian settlement here in North America.

The individuals being honoured have each made exceptional contributions to the continued strength and richness of Acadian culture. They are: Mr. George Arsenault, a writer, broadcaster, historian and folklorist from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; noted author, Dr. Antonine Maillet, former chancellor of the University of New Brunswick, who won the prestigious prize in French literature, “le Prix Goncour”, in 1979; and historian and community volunteer, Francis Blanchard, of Charlottetown.

I have no doubt that the members of this House will join me in congratulating these three outstanding citizens for this award.

Firearms ActStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, many hunters in the vast riding of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik are calling on the Government of Canada to make changes to the Firearms Act to allow Canadian hunters to hold lifetime certificates for the possession and acquisition of valid firearms in order to legally possess or acquire a firearm and buy ammunition.

The Government of Canada should sit down with the Government of Quebec in order to come up with a lifetime certificate that would be issued to Quebec hunters for a one-time fee, and maintain a Canadian licence for restricted firearms, in other words, handguns or prohibited firearms.

Quebec hunters obey hunting regulations and store their firearms safely as required by law.

National Forest WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.


André Harvey Liberal Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week is National Forest Week, and therefore an appropriate time for reflecting on the essential role our forests play in our daily lives.

Canada's Forests: A Fine Balance, is the slogan selected by the Canadian Forestry Association for this year's National Forest Week. This slogan is a clear reflection of the necessity of preserving this precious resource while working unceasingly to maintain a proper balance between our needs and the capacity of our forests to fulfill their ecological role.

Our forests meet our needs on the economic, esthetic and environmental levels. This week, let us think of our forests as a source of income but also as peaceful havens, and let us take a few moments to reflect, as Canadians, on the various ways we can preserve their health and their resources for the benefit of all the generations to come.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the announcement by Ontario Liberals to implement the Kyoto accord comes at a high price to the environment and taxpayers.

The decision to tax the growing forest with current market assessment means rural woodlot owners are faced with the decision to either clear cut the forest or get taxed off their land.

Forcing restaurants, country churches, trailer parks and children's camps to spend tens of thousands of dollars to chlorinate fresh, safe, and tested well water violates the federal chlorinated substances action plan and the Canada-United States Great Lakes water quality agreement to sunset the use of chlorine in the Great Lakes watershed.

The Liberal plan to charge businesses and farmers for water, and the eventual metering of residential wells will be another GST tax grab just like the GST paid on electricity bills, a tax the former finance minister and now Prime Minister promised to scrap.

Only a new national Conservative government will stop this latest assault on rural Canada.

European UnionStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Sarmite Bulte Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is the 213th anniversary of the Polish constitution which is the oldest constitution in Europe and second in the world only to the American constitution.

To celebrate this event, yesterday I attended mass at St. Casimir's Church in my riding which was followed by ceremonies at the parish hall hosted by the Toronto branch of the Canadian Polish Congress.

This year, the Canadian Polish community also celebrated the ascension of Poland, along with nine other countries, to the European Union on May 1, 2004.

Generations of talented and hardworking immigrants from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus arrived in Canada escaping the ravages of the Cold War.

Today, the European Union, like Canada, is continuing with the bold experiment of building a multicultural society based on the principles of democracy, freedom and peace.

I would like to invite all members of the House to join me in saluting the European Union on this historic decision and this historic day.

Pay EquityStatements By Members

May 3rd, 2004 / 2:05 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, pay equity is no more than a theory in the federal government. Female workers are still only earning 72% of what their male counterparts are making.

The existing provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act on pay equity have not allowed us to bridge the gap. The system in place is forcing women who are discriminated against to use the legal system to obtain justice.

For example, how long have female employees at Bell Canada, Canada Post and the CBC waited, and how much longer will they have to wait before finally getting fair pay? All the federal pay equity cases that are currently before the human rights tribunal go back more than 10 years. Does this mean that female workers must wait more than 10 years to obtain justice? And what about those who are not protected by a union?

The government should not wait for the courts to force it to take action. It is its duty to do so now.

The Bloc Quebecois is asking the federal government to do the right thing by Canada's female workers and put in place proactive equal pay legislation.

World Press Freedom DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, on this World Press Freedom Day, it is very important to remember that freedom of the press is a basic right and essential to democracy.

One may say that democracy is the daughter of the press.

During the French Revolution, people were so hungry for information in their new found freedom that they fought over any kind of written material.

On this day when freedom of the press is under attack in many places in the world, the Government of Canada wants to reiterate its strong commitment to a free press throughout the world, and to defending the rights of journalists and the freedom of expression, a fundamental value of democracy.

Persons with DisabilitiesStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Canadian Alliance Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, because Liberals historically have problems of actually earning votes of Canadians, their chosen alternative has been to try and buy or even extort votes, or a combination of both.

The Prime Minister's target this time is Canadians with disabilities, and this is sleazy politics at its worse. Using it as a photo op, the Prime Minister is re-announcing some budget provisions for disabled training and programs. While this may sound nice, this is the same Prime Minister who, as finance minister, slashed around $25 billion from health funding to the provinces, severely impacting the disabled.

This is the same person who imposed punitive changes to the disability tax credit, forcing disabled persons to again prove that they were disabled and forcing thousands of previous legitimate disabled persons out of the tax credit provision.

This “snatch then bait” election strategy is utterly shameful.

Stevie CameronStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, today one of Canada's most notable journalists receives an honorary Doctor of Divinity from the Vancouver School of Theology at UBC. While known across the country as a consummate investigative reporter and former editor of Elm Street magazine, Stevie Cameron's deep commitment to working with the homeless and hungry across Canada is less well known.

An elder with St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Toronto and the coordinator of the “Out of the Cold” program within that parish, she has worked on behalf of the homeless and poor in downtown Toronto for the past 12 years. Stevie has helped many other groups across Canada start their own “Out of the Cold” programs.

For the past two years, much of Stevie's efforts have also focused on Vancouver, where she has been researching the Port Coquitlam murders for her new book. The story of the missing women of Vancouver will serve as a study of poverty, homelessness and addictions, and the response or lack thereof of public systems to the needs of these women and their families.

I wish to congratulate a multi-talented Canadian woman who makes a difference on the Canadian landscape.

HealthStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was proud to join thousands of British Columbians on May Day to send a powerful message to Gordon Campbell and the federal Liberals. Stop the privatization of our public health care and the trampling of workers' rights.

HEU members and thousands of trade unionists who supported them are on the front line to force back Bill 37, the most draconian piece of legislation that slashes wages and privatizes our health care.

Jack Layton and federal New Democrats are taking on the federal Liberals, who are giving Gordon Campbell the green light to push privatization. We stand with our provincial colleagues, leader Carole James, and MLA's Joy MacPhail and Jenny Kwan. Their tireless work was part of a massive campaign, along with the B.C. Federation of Labour and the community, to push back Gordon Campbell's anti-worker and anti-health care agenda.

The power of people united for the dignity of workers and our public health care system is something that we are proud to be a part of.

Foreign AffairsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister of Canada has come back empty-handed from Washington. There was no commitment from President Bush about the unjust and shocking dispute over softwood lumber, despite the NAFTA tribunal's decision in favour of Canada.

The Prime Minister has come home empty-handed on the issue of mad cow as well; President Bush told him that, someday, perhaps, the American border might reopen. What a firm commitment.

Meanwhile, thousands of dairy and beef farmers are suffering from the overall drop in the price of beef. The Prime Minister did not even get any hints from the American government that it might reduce its grain subsidies, which are killing our producers.

Finally, the Prime Minister was caught in a flagrant contradiction. While he is in favour of putting the coordination of the missile defence shield in the hands of Norad, he told President Bush that he was opposed to the weaponization of space but that, ultimately, the decision would be made in the fall, that is, after the election.

What a lovely example of democracy, and what a fine mess.

Canadian Foundation for InnovationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Gilbert Barrette Liberal Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 26, the Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec announced an investment of $311,856 under the Canadian Foundation for Innovation for research at the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

This investment will create research infrastructure for new researchers in silviculture and wildlife management.

One of the purposes of the CFI is to enhance the capacity of universities to pursue research activities and develop technology in world-class facilities to benefit all Canadians.

World Press Freedom DayStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, today we celebrate World Press Freedom Day and in particular freedom of the press in those parts of the world where that freedom exists.

At noon today, dozens of journalists and others who cherish freedom of the press gathered at the National Press Club of Canada on Wellington Street across from Parliament Hill.

Among those attending to celebrate freedom of the press were those who remember Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian photojournalist who was murdered in Iran. She was accused of spying while doing her job, and then tortured and beaten to death. Her treatment was a flagrant violation of her rights and a reminder that freedom of the press is not guaranteed anywhere on the planet.

I would recommend to anyone in Ottawa that they visit the National Press Club on Wellington Street to see how others around the world define freedom of the press.

There are 40 award winning newspaper cartoons on display relating to freedom of the press. It is enlightening to see how others around the world are still defining and fighting for freedom of the press. It is a struggle we should all join and support.

Science and TechnologyStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, last Friday, Ophelia and Mike Lazaridis of Blackberry fame anchored a $100 million quantum computing initiative at the University of Waterloo with a $33.3 million donation.

Using quantum information will result in developing computers unimaginable until now, encrypt information with unbreakable security, and discover a range of quantum enabled devices that would transform our economy and society.

As Paul Davies, author of “New Physics” stated: “I believe the twenty first century will be the quantum age”. Our Prime Minister, in commending Ophelia and Mike's efforts, stated: “This initiative will help make Canada a world leader in the sector. The significance of this endeavour cannot be overstated”.

This is Canada at its best. Ophelia and Mike's generosity in the pursuit of excellence in expanding the boundaries of science is an inspiration to us all.